Governor John Pinckney Dunlap


A Collection of Biographical Sketches of all the Governors since the formation of the State.

Prepaired under the direction of Henry Chase
Portland, ME.
The Lakeside Press, Publisher

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ROBERT PINCKNEY DUNLAP, sixth Governor of Maine (by election), was born in Brunswick, August 17, 1794. His parents were Captain John and Mary (Tappan) Dunlap, and his grand-parents were Rev. Robert and Jane (Allison) Dunlap, and Richard and Marcy (Scot) Tappan, of Newburyport, Mass. His paternal grand-parent was born in Banilla, County Antrim, Ireland. He was educated at the University of Edinburg, and came to this country in the spring of 1736. In 1746 the town of Brunswick voted to invite Mr. Robert Dunlap to preach for them with a view to settlement, and, in 1747, Mr. Dunlap, accompanied by Den. Samuel Hinkley and Mr. Ebenezer Stanwood, who were appointed, on behalf of the town, commissioners to appear at the ordination and receive Mr. Dunlap as their minister, repaired to Boston. The ordination took place in the small, brick meeting-house on School Street; the Presbytery were the pastor, Rev. Mr. LeMercier, Rev. Mr. Morton, of Colrain, Rev. Mr. Davidson, of Londonderry, N. H.. Rev. Mr. Wilson, and Rev. Mr. McLothlin. Mr. Dunlap continued in charge 6f the church in Brunswick about thirteen years. He had no other settlement, and continued to live in that town until his death, in 1776.

John-2, the father of the Governor, the eldest son of Rev. Robert-1, was born in Dracut, Mass, in 1738. He was a man of great physical strength and indomitable spirit, a soldier in Captain Getchell's company during the French and Indian Wars. He was an inn-holder, engaged in trade, shipping, and various other enterprises, in which he was eminently successful, realizing a fortune. He often represented the town of Brunswick in the General Court, and was one of the most active in securing, for that town, its famous Bowdoin College, of which he was one of the first Board of Overseers. He was twice married, and nine children were born to him. He died July 30; 1824.

The subject of this sketch graduated from Bowdoin College in 1815; read law in the offices of Hon. Benjamin Orr, of Topsham, and Ebenezer Morely, of Newburyport, Mass.; admitted to the Bar in 1818, and opened an office in his native town. It does not appear that he was especially devoted to the profession, although he continued in practice for several years. His patrimony being ample he was not dependent upon his profession, and early turned his attention to politics, for which he had a decided preference.

Few men have stood so high in public regard, and few have been so frequently honored with important public trusts. In 1821 and 1822 he was Representative in the Legislature. In 1824 he was elected Senator, and continued in that office until 1833, except 1829, when he was a member of the Executive Council. He was twice President of the Senate. As a presiding officer he had few equals. His commanding presence, excellent voice, and intimate knowledge of parliamentary rules, together with his stately and urbane manners, brought his services, in this capacity, into frequent requisition.

In 1833 he was elected Governor. At this election was the first appearance of the Whigs under that distinctive title; their candidate was Daniel Goodenow. The dissenting Democrats voted for Samuel E. Smith, then Governor, and the Anti-Masons for Thomas A. Hill. As Governor Mr. Dunlap was exceedingly popular, and was three times re-elected. The graceful dictum and excellent spirit of his proclamations for Fast and Thanksgiving attracted favorable notice far beyond the limits of the State. His messages to the Legislature are not lengthy, but show an intimate acquaintance with the resources of the State, a thorough knowledge of its wants, and a proper appreciation of the duties of those intrusted with making its appropriations and its laws. In 1843 Governor Dunlap was elected Representative in Congress, and served two terms. He was Collector of the Port of Portland in 1848 and 1849, and Postmaster of Brunswick from 1853 to 1857. He cherished a fond affection for his Alma Mater, and during many years was President of the Board of Overseers.

He was a zealous Free Mason, and attained its highest honors. In 1816 he was initated by United Lodge, at Topshain, and was three years its Master, and three times was elected Grand Master of Masons in Maine. He was the first resident of Maine to receive the degrees of A. and A. Rite, and, at the time of his death, was the second officer of the Northern Supreme Council. For nine years he presided over the General Grand Chapter of R. A. Masons of the United States, and on retiring was presented with a solid silver service, "As a slight testimonial of the high regard and esteem entertained by the Royal Craft of the United States for his labors of love in an order to which he has devoted a long series of years, and of which he is considered one of the brightest lights."

The domestic relations of Governor Dunlap were pleasant to a marked degree. His wife, to whom he was married October 20, 1825, was Lydia, daughter of Abner Chapman, of Beverly, Mass. Three sons and one daughter were born to them. Governor Dunlap died at his home in Brunswick, October 20, 1859, of typhoid fever. The Portland Advertiser always his political opponent, referring to his death, after enumerating his many honors, said: "He was mainly distinguished as a presiding officer, for which he was eminently qualified, and enjoyed a large measure of success. In early life he was a very strong partisan, which was the chief source of his strength. In private he was a man of purity of life, and enjoyed the good-will of all."

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